After shares of his cybersecurity company Zscaler skyrocketed during the pandemic year, 62-year-old Jay Chaudhry has now become one of the world’s wealthiest people. Chaudhry’s estimated net worth rose by 271 per cent to $13 billion last year, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Chaudhry climbed 577 positions on the Hurun Global Rich List 2021, becoming one of India’s top ten wealthiest people. Chaudhry, now an American citizen is currently ranked ninth. Chaudhry and his family own 45 percent of Zscaler, a Nasdaq-listed firm worth $28 billion.
Chaudhry was born in the small Himachal Pradesh village of Panoh in the Una district. Since his village lacked electricity and drinking water was scarce, he chose to study outside – under a tree. He was raised by a single mother after his father died when he was young.
“I used to walk nearly 4 km everyday to attend my high school at Dhusara, the neighbouring village,” he said in an interview to the Tribune a few years ago.
He went on to complete his B. Tech in Electronics Engineering from IIT at the Benaras Hindu University in Varanasi. He then flew to the United States in the 1980s to pursue engineering and management masters programme at the University of Cincinnati.
Chaudhry spent nearly 25 years in sales and marketing for companies including IBM, Unisysys, and IQ Software before deciding to start his own company. In 1996, Chaudhry and his wife, Jyoti, both quit their jobs and placed their life savings into Chaudhry’s first startup, SecureIT, a cybersecurity company.
According to Forbes, as on 2 March 2021, Chaudhry’s real-time net worth stood at $11.5 billion. According to The Forbes 400, he ranked at number 85.
Before ZScaler, Chaudhry founded several other companies – CoreHarbour, Secure IT, CipherTrust and AirDefense – which was sold to smartphone-maker Motorola in 2008.
Chaudhry founded Zscaler in 2008, and the company went public in 2018. Chaudhry’s company, which specialises in enabling safe digital transformation by rethinking conventional network security, saw an unprecedented rise as the world adapted to the work-from-home model in 2020.
Zscaler, which has over 5,000 clients with a quarter from the Global 2000, has over 2,600 employees and provides security as a service to leading tech companies including Microsoft, Siemens, CrowdStrike, and AWS, among others. Zscaler recently declared that its revenue for the second quarter of 2021 jumped by 55% to $157 million, pushing the firm to the top of Wall Street targets. “There is an accelerated market shift towards work from anywhere, which is the world Zscaler was built for,” Chaudhry said after the company declared its latest quarterly earnings.